AIM: Is Vanity Fair?

Sometimes I’m this kind of vain: “You had one eye in the mirror as you watched yourself gavotte” (You’re So Vain by Carly Simon). Although, in my defense, when I check my look in the mirror, it’s usually done less as prideful admiration than straight-up concern about looking like a goober. Either way, it’s driven by vanity.

In more ways, though, I am this kind of vain: “Which of us is happy in this world? Which of us has his desire? Or, having it, is satisfied?” (from Vanity Fair by William Thackeray)

Vanity as “If only…”.

There’s inner vanity “If only…” (“If only I was __________” – thinner, prettier, less grey, smarter, wittier…) and outward vanity “If only…” (“If only people would ____________” – listen to me,  think like me, do as I say…).

Inner vanity example #1: Jim and I were trying on sunglasses at Costco last weekend. I usually wear aviator-style. I put on a pair and asked Jim what he thought. He said he didn’t like aviators.

“I wear them all the time,” I protested. “Why didn’t you tell me this before?”

“Because you like them and that’s what matters,” he said.

I was indignant. I think aviators look good on me! I’ve been told they look good on me! What else doesn’t he like about me?

Inner vanity example #2: During the same Costco trip, a woman was hawking “healthy” pizzas. I tried a sample and picked up the package to look at the ingredients list. Before I could read it, she said, “Do you follow Weight Watchers points?” I looked at her curiously. Is she calling me fat? “A whole pie is only six points!” she added.

“I’ll keep that in mind,” I said and set down the package. I walked back to my cart, seething with mind-numbing self-consciousness.

Sensitive much? Absolutely. That’s what happens when my inner vanity “If only…” takes over. I make myself a victim of dissatisfaction when I forget I am OK just the way I am, something I forget quite often.

Outward vanity “If only…” is something I call Soap Box Mind. We not only preach our certainties, but we reject any possibility that someone else’s certainties are also right.

Perhaps no other realm – outside religious or political arenas – are people more sure of the answers than weight loss. The Paleos, the vegans, the vegetarians, the no-carb, the low-carb, the non-fat, the DASHers, the pill pushers, the surgeons, the smoothie makers, the “Eat This Not That’ers, the butter eaters, the don’t eat after 8ers…

We cross the line from genuine to vain when we preach our path as the only path.

I sometimes adopt a bit of leeway as to my position about the how-tos of weight loss and maintenance. I read extensively about what works for other people, and I espouse that which is logically and nutritionally sound, even if it’s outside my way of doing things.

But there are times when outer vanity “If only…” prevents me from thinking outside the box; when someone else’s definition of eating healthy contrasts with mine, and I get all, “But…but…my way is better!” I realize this is an area for self-improvement.

Everyday vanity isn’t as extreme as checking ourselves out in the mirror as we gavotte. It’s more covert. It’s learned and lodged deep inside our psyches. We fuss about our clothes, our hair, our weight. We aren’t satisfied when we have our “desire.” It is vanity that causes us to search for that which we think will make us happy.

How would things be different if you had _____? Would you be happier? More satisfied? My guess is that you can be OK just the way you are, right now.

“Knowing that we can be loved exactly as we are gives us all the best opportunity for growing into the healthiest of people.” ― Fred Rogers
AIM: Adventures in Maintenance is Lynn, Lori, Debby, Shelley, and Cammy, former weight-loss bloggers who now write about life in maintenance. We formed AIM to work together to turn up the volume on the issues facing people in weight maintenance. We publish a post on the same topic on the first Monday of each month. Let us know if there is a topic you’d like us to address!

Lori @ Finding Radiance
Debbie @ debby weighs in
Shelley @ My Journey to Fit
Cammy @ The Tippy Toe Diet

11 thoughts on “AIM: Is Vanity Fair?

  1. LOL. I'm stuck on the 6 point pizza pie! Was it tasty?

    You know, I think that people's “sureness” about their weight loss method (and their religion too sometimes) can actually stem from fear and uncertainty. Deep down, they aren't 100% sure that what they believe is true, so they try to bolster that fear by proclaiming it as the one true way.

  2. “I make myself a victim of dissatisfaction when I forget I am OK just the way I am, something I forget quite often.”

    I wish I could figure out why we do this to ourselves. Striving to improve or enhance some area of our lives is one thing, but if it's wrapped in a belief that we're somehow unworthy in our current condition, life can be pretty miserable.

  3. LOL on Debby's comment – I was wondering what kind of pizza was only 6 WW points! And having someone say that to me usually doesn't bother me; I figure they're just saying the company spiel.

  4. Why do I think a 6 point pizza would taste just like I imagine a 6 point pizza would taste…

    Sometimes I wonder if that dogma where people want to enlighten others stems from if they push it hard enough, it will really be true for them. Self brain washing?

  5. Hey!! Look at me replying to posts! Cammy is a genius!

    The pizza was dry and tasteless. And I about sureness. When I was growing up (Lutheran), I was never challenged to question my faith until I got to college (a private Lutheran college), where I minored in religion. Every one of my theology teachers encouraged me to question my faith so that I could uncover what exactly I believed in. The same thing applies in weight loss.

  6. It was some pizza company from California. She said that was their last day at Costco, so she was encouraging everyone to buy them up because they'd be gone FOREVER. It was lousy pizza, so my guess is Costco told them to get out! LOL

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